[extropy-chat] We Can Understand Anything, But are Just a Bit Slow

Lee Corbin lcorbin at tsoft.com
Sun Mar 19 21:01:23 UTC 2006

Damien writes

> I should probably try to update my anti-Singularity page
> http://www.mindstalk.net/vinge/antising.html
> though I shouldn't do it this week (oral quals coming up).  One thing to
> update it with might be the emphasis in modern cognitive science on
> evolutionary continuity between us and other animals.  Very few of our
> mental abilities seem qualitatively unique to us.  Full-blown recursive
> language might be... which does correspond to a big natural jump in computer
> theory.

I agree that we have "full-blown recursive language", and that that is
a *BIG* jump!

> There's even room in CS for a simple evolutionary change leading to
> such a jump: adding a push-down stack to a finite automata might take a big
> development, with some increase in computational power.  *Duplicating* the
> push-down stack would be relatively easier -- segmentation, plus expanding the
> automaton rules -- and gets you a Turing machine.  Triplicating the stack
> doesn't get you anything more, except some speed.

If you say so  :-)  In one sense we already have total recursion,
at least those of us who're handy with pencil and paper. But we
*don't* have built-in recursion.

> So most of cog sci is saying "no big jumps to us, no big jumps from us" except
> for the computer theory side, which says "big jump to us, but no more
> conceivable jump from us without invoking infinite computation or precision".

Right! This fits my belief. Consider the following sworn testimony of an

    "The Alien was working on a doctoral dissertation
    entitled "A Human Can Understand Anything that I Can, Only
    it Will Take Him a Lot Longer, and You Will Not Believe the
    Trouble He Has to Go Through" (which, incidentally, happens
    to require only three symbols in written Alien language). He
    selected me for his guinea pig, and it took him 23,392 years
    to teach me that A proves B. It would have taken him longer
    ---several centuries, he said---if I had not already been
    good at math. There were 318 major parts of the theorem, and
    over four hundred thousand lemmas. Naturally, I don't pretend
    to have it all "in mind" at the same time, but I vaguely
    remember that even back on Earth by the end of certain long
    math proofs I was kind of fuzzy about how the earlier parts
    went. What was essential for my understanding the proof of B
    was that I built up a set of notes that's pretty elaborate
    (to put it mildly). You can check it out: I was allowed to
    bring all my notes back, and they take up nearly a third of
    the surface area of Ceres.

    "My Alien would have failed with a dog or a chimpanzee, no
    matter how long he tried. That's because I, as a human, have
    the concept of chunking concepts abstractly. Thus in his
    dissertation, my Alien proved that we humans are just barely
    on the right side of a complexity barrier that many stupider
    Earth creatures haven't crossed.

    "(By the way, don't feel sorry for me! I had the time of my life.
    Mainly, no doubt, due to the superb drugs and brain stimulation
    freely provided.)"

I would not find such a narrative implausible on *theoretical* grounds.


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list